Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 25, June 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 


Amtrak's Empire Builder

For NCI: Adam Auxier

Amtrak’s southward Empire Builder detours through Pepin, Wis., over the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe because of bridgework on the Canadian Pacific in summer 2001.

 

Lott fights for Smith’s reappointment
John Robert Smith

John Robert Smith

John Robert Smith has served as a member of Amtrak’s Board of Directors for one four-year term, the last two as chairman, but it isn’t clear if the Bush administration will reappoint him to the railroad’s board. Smith is also the mayor of Meridian, Miss., and NCI’s board chairman.

Sen. Trent Lott and others in the Mississippi congressional delegation are pushing for his reappointment, according to a June 18 report on WTOK-TV, Meridian.

“I’m a big supporter of Mayor John Robert Smith, especially his work on Amtrak,” said Lott. “He’s been very diligent in working and trying to keep the national rail passenger system, to get it to continue to come through Meridian. I think he’s respected by all sides of the Amtrak organization, labor, management, people that support it and people that oppose it.”

Smith is a Republican and has expressed a wish to be reappointed, but it may be in jeopardy.

“This administration has been inclined not to reappoint people that were appointed during the Clinton years, Democrat or Republican. Their argument has been we just need to continue to have some turnover and bring new people,” said Lott. “They’ve had some exceptions where you have extraordinarily well qualified people that are in critical throes of making decisions on a board or head of an agency and I think they ought to take that into consideration with John Robert Smith.”

Lott indicated it would be four to six weeks before the White House makes a final decision.


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Is Penn Station terrorist-proof?

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

In the ongoing War on Terror, New York City’s Penn Station may be just about the safest place in the nation. That is, judging from the anti-terrorist measures that have been implemented there and those that are in the works to protect the half-million passengers that use the facility daily.

Furthermore, a prominent part of that overall security program at Amtrak’s busiest station deals with upgrading the nearly century old tunnels whose danger was first spotlighted by D:F in this space a few years ago.

Since September 11, 2001, $100 million in security improvements have been implemented at Penn that hosts not only 40 percent of Amtrak’s nationwide patronage, but also the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit.

Some of that money is going toward the tunnel improvements, and will include three major ventilation structures, a fire standpipe system, “and other projects to improve the infrastructure beneath the station in the next five years,” according to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

The senator accompanied Transportation Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson to Penn Station June 16 for a firsthand look-see at the security improvements that had already been implemented.

The Rail Security Program includes increased policing, new K-9 bomb teams, sensors to detect chemical, biological, and radioactive materials, Explosive Trace Detection devices that scan the air for traces of bomb materials, bomb-resistant trash cans, intrusion alarms, and vehicle barricades.

Schumer said the funds have been well spent so far, but more needs to be done. He and Hutchinson vowed to work together to make sure the tunnels are safer.

With all the precautions that have been, are being, and will be implemented, New York City’s Penn Station, one of the busiest public facilities anywhere, may be the most terrorist-free zone to be found.


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Bombardier, Amtrak remain mum
over Acela lawsuits, talks, results

Bombardier and Amtrak remain tight-lipped regarding talks between the companies regarding legal problems over Acela Express repairs and costs.

Bombardier Corp. CEO Paul Tellier said at a recent stockholders’ meeting that he and Amtrak CEO David Gunn have agreed to mediation in Bombardier’s legal dispute with the U.S. passenger carrier over problems with its high-speed Acela Express trains.

Bombardier spokesman David Slack told D:F Tellier’s “statement was accurate. It was in answer to a question from a shareholder.” Tellier is a former Canadian National Ry. CEO.

Slack would not say who is chatting with whom, where, nor when.

“Matters of this sort should be resolved within the parties,” he said, adding, “We’re going to let the process work and see what happens.”

Amtrak remained silent on the topic.


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Catenary snarls corridor traffic;
two women faint from heat

By Leo King
Editor

Pantographs atop an Amtrak locomotive became snarled in catenary over Davis Interlocking in Delaware at milepost 38.4 (from Zoo Interlocking in Philadelphia) on June 13, and with no power, the train’s air conditioners stopped working. Four people were later transferred to a Delaware hospital from the stalled train after two women passed out from high heat in the coaches.

The four were removed from No. 138 “at a relatively new SEPTA station called ‘Churchman’s Crossing,’ about halfway between Wilmington and Newark, Del.,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told D:F.

The Wilmington News Journal reported “New Castle County paramedics took four women to Christiana Hospital [in Wilmington] on Friday night after they passed out from heat exhaustion while sitting on an Amtrak train that was delayed for about three hours.”

County Emergency Medical Services spokeswoman Kelli Starr-Leach said at about 8:40 p.m., some passengers began feeling queasy, and two passed out. Passengers on cell phones called paramedics.

The newspaper reported “Rescue workers had the train crew pull the cars forward to the Fairplay Station at Delaware Park. Paramedics then evacuated the train.” Churchman’s Crossing and Fairplay are different names for the same station.

Eastbound train No. 138, a Friday-only regional train operating between Washington and Boston with AEM-7 engine 933 and eight cars “stopped just south of Churchman’s Crossing” in Delaware “with damage to the pantograph,” according to Black.

That is about 127 miles south of New York City.

Black said, “No. 138’s engineer reconfigured the pantographs and grounded the catenary, but he reported the rear pantograph had carbon strip damage.” A road foreman reported the front pantograph was grounded “because of loose shunt straps.”

A rescue engine, another AEM-7 (No. 952) was dispatched from Philadelphia with a yard crew to assist, and engine 723 was cut from KP-101 to help.

About 140 Wilmington and Philadelphia passengers were transferred to Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority train No. 7256. The rest, about 360 people, were transferred to Amtrak No. 126 – but “the transfer was stopped because of heavy rain in the area,” so “about 40 passengers remained on No. 138,” Black said.

The equipment from No. 138 moved to Wilmington station where engines 723 and 933 were set off and engine 952 added ahead.

Because of the high heat in the cars, passengers had removed several windows for ventilation. They followed the emergency exit instructions to remove the rubber window gaskets and seals.

Meanwhile, Acela Express No. 2171 (power cars 2017-2036) stopped south of Davis interlocking with the pantograph rolled over on power car 2017. The train was terminated south of Wilmington, Del. and passengers transferred to No. 187.

2171’s equipment arrived in Washington two hours and 12 minutes late.

No. 138 continued to New York City’s Penn station where people continuing eastward were transferred to No. 126, which had also arrived in Penn Station.

After changing power in New York – because engine 949, another AEM-7 is restricted from operating east of New Haven, Conn. – No. 126, normally a Washington-New York Metroliner, operated through to Boston.

No. 138 was due to arrive in Boston at 1:38 a.m. No. 126 arrived some four hours after departing New York.

At least 14 other Amtrak trains were affected, including eastward Acela Express No. 2114, which arrived 31 minutes late in New York where it terminates; No. 126 was delayed one hour and 15 minutes.

Westward trains No. 193, a New York-Philadelphia train, ran eight minutes late; No. 125, between New York and Washington, seven minutes; Acela Express No. 2171, Boston-Washington, 48 minutes; No. 137, Boston-Washington, 50 minutes; and No. 187, New York-Washington, delayed an hour and 54 minutes. It was held out at Washington Terminal due to 2171 ahead.

No. 97 the Silver Meteor from New York to Miami, was delayed two hours, 25 minutes; No. 175, Boston-Washington, one hour, 50 minutes; Acela Express 2173, Boston-Washington, two hours; Acela Express 2175, Boston-Washington, one hour, 25 minutes; No. 55, the Vermonter, St. Albans, Vt.-Washington, one hour, 35 minutes; No. 177, Boston-Washington, 53 minutes; and No. 139, New York-Washington, 53 minutes.

The Mid-Atlantic Division chief dispatcher wrote in his log, “As a result of No. 138 and No. 2171 having pantograph damage while passing through Davis Interlocking, electric traction (ET) department personnel placed a hold for electric movements until an inspection could be performed. After the inspection, it was found that there was catenary damage within, and the only route available was track 3 to track 2 with instructions to drop the pantograph.”

He later reported at “12:34 a.m., ETs okayed movements track 3 to track 3 with no restrictions. Also, it was found that wires were down on tracks A, 1 and 2.”


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Acela ridership up, says Amtrak

By Leo King
Editor

Amtrak reported on Friday a 13 percent increase in Acela Express ridership between Boston and New York. The carrier credited the results from lower fares of $99 or less that took effect April 28.

In the five weeks since the fare reduction, according to the carrier, Acela Express ridership north of New York increased to an average of 12,525 trips per week – up 13.1 percent from the five-week period preceding the fare change when average ridership was 11,073 trips per week.

Amtrak also reported a 34 percent increase in the number of Boston-New York passengers opting to “step up” to Acela Express First Class service following the April 28 implementation of a $50 cap for the upgrade. Average First Class ridership in the five weeks preceding April 28 was 1,106. In the five weeks that followed, ridership surged to an average of 1,477. First Class passengers enjoy at-seat meals served on china, premium wine by the glass, priority boarding where available and access to Amtrak’s ClubAcela station lounges in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The encouraging data reflects a trend reversal in Acela Express ridership north of New York. In the five weeks prior to the fare reduction, ridership on the high-speed service averaged 15.4 percent below the same period in 2002. However, in the five weeks since fares were lowered, weekly ridership was up an average of 5.6 percent over last year — a shift of 21 points. First Class ridership, which had been down an average of 24.6 percent from 2002 levels, was up an average of 9.5 percent in the five weeks after the fare change.

Amtrak advertised the lower fares in the Boston and New York markets.

The fast trains have been running since December 2000. The railroad operates 20 Acela Expresses between Boston and New York each weekday.

Other recent figures from Amtrak show its endpoint on-time performance resulted in mixed numbers since October 1 through June 13.

System-wide, the railroad operated 68,895 trains, of which 16,849 were late. The average endpoint on-time performance was 75.5 percent.

The numbers do not included delays enroute nor made-up time, and are calculated by DOT standards depending on trip length.

 
Divisions
Trains
Operated
 
Late
 
Percentage
New England13,9091,87286.5
Metropolitan
{New York City area}
 
31,096
 
5,430
 
82.5
Mid-Atlantic27,2483,67786.5
Southern4,2502,02952.3
Central13,7324,50367.2
Pacific13,1473,52273.2
Southwest8,1621,32183.8

The passenger railroad showed improving numbers on the bottom line from October 1 through May.

Amtrak earned $1,355,524,000 in its total operating revenue, but had forecast $1,465,673,000, a difference of $1,101,490.

Total expenses came to $2,126,834,000, while budgeting $2,234,893,000, spending $108,059,000 less than expected.

Its ridership totaled 15,569,283. They had expected 15,361,203, a difference of 208,080 on the plus side.

Amtrak is online at www.amtrak.com.


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Spain, U.S. confer on transportation

Spain and The U.S. last week announced a plan to initiate an ongoing program of cooperation and information exchange on transportation science and technology.

Under a so-called “Memorandum of Intent,” the State department signed on the concluding day of the U.S.-Spain Forum on Construction Technology in Miami, representatives of the USDOT and Spain’s Ministry of Development (SMOD) intend to participate in an ongoing series of information exchanges designed to advance both countries’ transportation capabilities.

“The information shared at this week’s forum, as well as in our earlier meetings with Spanish transportation officials, demonstrates that we have much to teach each other,” said DOT Norman Y. Mineta.

“Future meetings between representatives of our governments will build on these fruitful exchanges and help both countries build safer, more secure and more efficient transportation systems.”

Topics discussed at the two-day forum will be further explored in upcoming exchanges between representatives of the two countries. These include improving the design, construction and operation of high-speed rail, mass transit, highways, tunnels, airports, air traffic control systems, and port infrastructure.

The Miami forum carried forward the work of previous U.S.-Spain forums on transportation and housing held in November 2002 in Washington and in February 2003 in Madrid and Toledo, Spain.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

First streetcar in operation in Tacoma

Sound Transit

Sound Transit’s Tacoma Link light rail train turns onto Pacific Avenue, the first streetcar in downtown Tacoma in 65 years.

 

Tacoma Link begins tests

“The line is hot!” With those words from Felix Costello of Tacoma’s Totem Electric (a Sound Transit contractor), the entire Tacoma Link Light Rail system was powered up June 18 at 10:10 A.M.

Shortly thereafter, the first streetcar in 65 years slowly rolled out onto Pacific Avenue for the initial system-wide test of Sound Transit’s new Tacoma Link light rail system.

“Since voters created Sound Transit by approving “Sound Move” in 1996 we have been waiting for this historic day,” said Sound Transit board member and Tacoma City Council member Kevin Phelps.

“Tacoma Link is an important part of the entire Sound Transit network because it connects our downtown with virtually every mode of public transportation at Tacoma Dome Station,” he said.

“Tacoma Link is also a vital piece of downtown Tacoma’s renaissance,” Phelps added. “With our new convention center, art museum, the Museum of Glass and all the other development here, Tacoma Link will move up to 2,000 people per day from Freighthouse Square to the Theater District.”

The day’s first run through the line took about four hours as the train stopped at each traffic signal for safety testing. All signals operated perfectly. On a return run from the Theater District Station back to Freighthouse Square, the train took 7 minutes and 22 seconds, well within the expected 10-minute headways when full service begins.

System testing of Tacoma Link will continue throughout the rest of June and through July with full service beginning on Friday, August 22.

“The first day of service will be a day-long celebration along the entire 1.6 mile route,” said Phelps. We will have entertainment and other festivities at all five stations between Freighthouse Square and the Theater District. It will be a day long-remembered in our city.”

In 1996 voters approved funding for Sound Transit to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail.

Elsewhere, bids opened June 12 for two of Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail construction contracts are significantly lower than engineers’ estimates.

“The market has spoken. That these bids are approximately 15 percent lower than we estimated demonstrates Sound Transit’s upgraded cost estimating methods are sound and effective,” said King County Executive Ron Sims, Sound Transit Board chair.

“This good news adds to the agency’s other accomplishments as we enter the final phase of working to secure the federal funding we need.”

The first contract (C700) runs from south of Royal Brougham Way to near South Airport Way. It includes the construction of at-grade and aerial light rail tracks, a station at Lander Street, and connections to Link’s Operations and Maintenance Facility, located immediately west of Interstate 5 at the former site of the Rainier Brewery. The second contract (C810) is for building the Operations and Maintenance Facility and a train storage yard on the 25-acre site, including an administrative building and facilities to service and maintain 60 to 100 light rail vehicles.

Sound Transit’s engineer’s estimate for both projects was $110,880,000. The package containing the apparent low bid, $94,689,061 for both projects by Kiewit Pacific Co., is subject to verification by Sound Transit to ensure the bid is free of errors, complies with the requirements of the solicitation, and the contractor is eligible for award. The selected contractor will not be awarded until the Federal Transit Administration has awarded Sound Transit a full funding grant agreement providing federal funding needed for the project.


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New York City to get $50 million

USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta said on Friday The Fulton Street Transit Center will connect several Lower Manhattan transit by restoring and strengthening the infrastructure that was destroyed by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

"This $50 million grant awarded today represents the Bush Administration's continued commitment to rebuilding lower Manhattan and to transportation as a strategic investment that strengthens the economy," Mineta said, adding, “This grant maximizes the freedom of mobility for all New Yorkers. It is certainly a major step towards rebuilding Lower Manhattan.”

Congress appropriated $4.55 billion in federal aid last year to rebuild and enhance transportation projects designed to significantly improve mobility in lower Manhattan.

Since fall 2002, federal agencies been working with New York state and city officials as well as a transportation working group “to identify and prioritize major transportation capital investment projects to be implemented with the available funding”, Mineta said.


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Tunnel notion gathers energy

A long-proposed $5 billion rail tunnel that would double the number of trains between Penn Station and New Jersey is getting the green light, according to the New York Daily News. Unnamed sources said Thursday a crucial $5 million environmental impact study for the project was expected to be awarded on Friday by New Jersey Transit, the sources said.

NJT, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have discussed the concept of a new commuter tunnel under the Hudson River for a decade.

"It's a very big deal," said Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association. "It will be good economically for both sides of the [Hudson] river."

The new tunnel would allow NJ Transit to run 21 more trains an hour between New Jersey and Manhattan. Right now, NJ Transit and Amtrak trains are confined to two tracks, creating a bottleneck during rush hours.

The PA already has pledged to pay $1billion to build the tunnel, but the project still faces major hurdles. New Jersey and New York transit officials are expected to seek federal money to cover most of the tunnel's costs.

With the many states struggling to balance budgets, the request will compete for funding with other projects around the country.

NJT, the Port Authority and the MTA declined comment on Thursday, the newspaper stated.

The new tunnel is one of several regional projects designed to bring more commuters into Manhattan.

Construction already has started on linking the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, and the MTA is studying whether to bring Metro-North trains to Penn Station.

Lower Manhattan rebuilding officials also are examining ways to create a new commuter rail line between Long Island and a proposed transit hub at Ground Zero.


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Las Vegas Monorail car

Las Vegas Monorail

70 percent of the four-mile Las Vegas Monorail guideway have been built and operational testing has begun. Tests will continue until the line opens next January. The monorail unveiled last week in New York will arrive in Las Vegas on June 24. Eventually, nine four-car trains will operate. Traction motors will collect 750 volts D.C. from guideway-mounted power rails. The photo is of a model, painted for the line’s first advertiser-imaged train. Hansen’s Beverage Co., will pay the Las Vegas Monorail Company $1-million per year for ten years for the right to image the interior and exterior of the monorail’s first train to promote it’s Monster Energy™ drink.

 

Las Vegas monorail prepares to extend

As concrete columns dot Paradise Road and beyond, ushering in a new monorail era east of Las Vegas Boulevard, the new four-mile $650 million project is on schedule and under budget – two elements not commonly found in public projects. Even as the first phase inches towards its late-January early-February 2004 start date, the second phase extension is barreling toward a start in middle of that same year, reports the Las Vegas Business Press of June 13.

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada received its April environmental approval from the Federal Transit Administration, which allowed the RTC to move forward with plans for the monorail’s extension from the Sahara Hotel and Casino to Fremont Street.

Jacob Snow, RTC’s general manager, said the approval is a crucial step for “being able to receive great big buckets of money” from the federal government. Part of what Snow is referring to is approximately $150 million in the form of a federal grant for the Sahara-Fremont Street extension.

The RTC will also count on $150 million in private revenue bonds issued by Solomon Smith Barney and another $150 million in the form of a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 loan, which currently falls under the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21).

The entire extension project is estimated to cost $450 million. Snow is hoping to complete financing by June 2004 and begin construction of the second stage later that summer.


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BART finally runs to the airport

It has taken decades to get there, but the Bay Area Rapid Transit system finally is running trains to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The trains began operating yesterday (Sunday).

The extension cost taxpayers $1.5 billion, but it ushered in a new era in the way Bay residents travel, giving many an end to airport parking bills, long shuttle rides or expensive cab rides, reported the San Francisco Chronicle of June 15.

“Until now, we’ve been a Third World country when it comes to public transportation,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin. “This should change that.”

The new BART service deposits travelers right in the International Terminal. From the turnstiles to the check-in counters is a walk of only 100 feet. The elevated tracks go right past parked jumbo jets, giving a close-up view.

The SFO station is getting all the attention, but the pavilion-style Millbrae “intermodal” station might be the most important and far-reaching part of the project. There, northbound passengers on Caltrain will be able to walk across the platform and step directly onto BART trains, but southbound passengers must cross a bridge.

With the two transit systems at last connected, travelers arriving at the airport will be able ride the rails all the way to Gilroy. Beginning June 23, Caltrain is adjusting its schedules to coincide with BART’s trains. Because of construction for the “Baby Bullet” express service, Caltrain is not running on weekends until spring 2004.

From Daly City to the airport, it’s a 16-minute ride. From San Francisco’s Civic Center station, it’s 28 minutes; from San Leandro, 57 minutes and from Dublin 77 minutes. These times are all on the Dublin-Pleasanton line, the only direct line into SFO. On the other lines, plan on an extra five to 20 minutes for a transfer.

Fares range from $4.30 from Daly City, $4.65 from the 16th Street Mission station, $4.70 from Montgomery Street, $5 from Oakland’s MacArthur station, $5.10 from Rockridge, $5.15 from Berkeley and $6.40 from Concord. The highest fare is $6.90 from Pittsburg-Bay Point.


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Charlotte light rail okay for federal funds

Charlotte, N.C.’s Area Transit System’s proposed light-rail line passed it biggest hurdle yet last week when the federal government announced the line meets environmental regulations.

“CATS” as the transit system is called is now a whisker away from starting construction, the Charlotte Observer reported on May 22

The decision by the Federal Transit Administration all but assures the transit system will receive $185 million in federal money, half the cost of the 10-mile train line. State and local taxpayers will pay the rest, with the local share coming from Mecklenburg’s half-cent transit sales tax.

Federal money is now so certain that CATS will start buying land for stations and parking lots. Consultants will begin final engineering drawings. CATS is already getting bids for 15 light-rail cars, with an option for 25 more.

The state Board of Transportation will vote June 5 on providing its $92 million share, money that’s in Gov. Michael F. Easley’s (D) “Moving Ahead” transportation plan.

“This is a very good sign about our long-term success,” said Mayor Pat McCrory, who has been working on a rapid-transit plan since 1995.

The announcement of the federal money should come this fall.

“We are not 100 percent certain, but it’s a very, very high probability,” said Ron Tober, CATS’ chief executive.

Construction should start this fall on the $371 million line, five years after voters approved a transit sales tax.

Trains will run from uptown to Interstate 485 near Pineville on a double-track layout. The trip from I-485 to uptown will take about a half-hour. Trolley wires will power the trains. The first train will arrive for testing in two years, with passenger service starting in 2006.


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Puerto Rico builds commuter rail line

Concrete platforms rise above crawling traffic on San Juan, Puerto Rico’s main avenues, the foundations of a new commuter train touted as the sole answer for an island metropolis out of highway space but scorned by many car-addicted islanders.

The first of its kind in the Caribbean, the Tren Urbano, or Urban Train, is supposed to decongest highways and bring cheap, speedy transport to a crowded area of more than 1 million people, but some people argue it’s unlikely to solve traffic problems and is a waste of money in the U.S. territory where the average of 1.7 vehicles per licensed driver indicates the preference for personal transport.

The AP reported on June 16 “People won’t leave behind their cars,” said insurance agent Monserrate Flores, who commutes one hour to work by car. “The whole thing is never going to work.”

He said the train’s single-line route isn’t convenient, and he predicts most who try it will slip back into using their cars.

Katherine Rivera, 17, a student with no vehicle, is looking forward to the train’s scheduled September inauguration. For her, it should be more convenient and timesaving than the five buses she takes daily between home, school and a part-time job.

“It can work,” Rivera said.

The train will run 11 miles from downtown Santurce, a neighborhood packed with small shops, cafeterias, soaring apartment buildings and elegant villas surrounded by verandahs to Bayamon, a western satellite city of low-rise apartments and gated subdivisions.

Along its 40-minute trip, the train will snake between office high-rises, through a tunnel, above the rooftops of auto shops, through open areas of tall grass, past a baseball stadium and to the final stop’s parking lot.

Government studies predict 115,000 riders each day. A similar number already use San Juan’s buses, and officials hope to attract more riders by redesigning bus routes to start at train stations and run deeper into suburbs. A single fare of $1.50 will allow people to use both the bus and train.

The major drawback, so far, is that the train won’t reach other congested suburbs or popular destinations like beaches and shopping malls.

Puerto Rico has long been without a working train. In the early 1900s, there were trains and trolleys, but tracks eventually disappeared under expanding pavement. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that planners decided a new train could ease traffic on the island of 4 million people.

Construction began in 1996, and the price has nearly doubled from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion, with the U.S. government paying 40 percent.

“Each kilometer costs over $100 million. That is shocking,” said Transportation Secretary Fernando Fagundo.

The rising costs are due in part to radical design changes, including the addition of more stations and a switch from light rail to a heavier train.

Siemens AG of Munich, Germany, is building the train itself but the government assigned other jobs piecemeal instead of economizing with single contractors.

High costs prompted the local senate to begin an investigation of possible corruption, and Fagundo said he has referred cases to prosecutors.

The 16 stations—designed by a variety of architects—have cathedral ceilings, granite stairs and tiles in tones from gray to pink. In a decision sure to annoy riders, no station has a bathroom, supposedly considered a security risk.

The project was supposed to be finished in 2001, and some blame the delays on a wasteful bureaucracy, goals that outpaced planning and the doling out of jobs for political reasons.

“At some point the Urban Train became a construction project and not a transportation project,” said former Transportation Secretary Hermenegildo Ortiz, who oversaw initial planning in 1990.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Union Pacific freight at Houston

For NCI: Gonzalo Camacho

A Union Pacific freight train passes through Houston’s First Ward district, close to downtown.

 

Only money is missing in Chicago
plan to cure rail, road bottlenecks

Chicago city officials unveiled a $1.5-billion plan to alleviate freight train bottlenecks in the Chicago area, but the presentation on June 16 focused more on freight railroads’ support for the plan than the complex federal funding deal needed to pay for it.

The plan is designed to reduce blocked street crossings and improve freight train movements through the Chicago area, the nation’s busiest rail hub, Crain’s Chicago Business News reported.

The region’s tangled network of rails, which dates back to the 19th century, is blamed for delays in moving freight between the East and West Coasts and for repeatedly snarling automobile traffic with blocked street crossings.

The major components of the plan call for eliminating 25 track-street crossings in the city and suburbs with street underpasses or overpasses; separating six track intersections that are heavily used by both freight and commuter trains; and eliminating a rail right-of-way through the south Loop commonly known as the St. Charles Air Line. The east-west line, between Clark Street and Prairie Avenue, has long been identified an impediment to real estate development.

The improvements will mostly occur along a half-dozen corridors throughout the area that have been identified as freight train thoroughfares that benefit all six of the nation’s major railroads.

City officials hope work can begin by 2005, but that will depend largely on the availability money for the plan. The Illinois DOT has committed $10 million for preliminary engineering, and the railroads intend to put in another $3 million for engineering.

The six major freight railroads are: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp., Union Pacific Corp., Canadian National Ry. Co. and Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd.

The railroads have pledged about $212 million toward the plan. Metra is expected to pitch in about $20 million, leaving $1 billion or more for federal, state and city funding sources.

Mayor Richard Daley acknowledged that public funding hasn’t been nailed down yet, but insisted the plan should move forward nevertheless.

“If you don’t do something about these issues, they’ll get worse and worse,” he said during a presentation at a park on the Southwest side.

The mayor deflected questions about whether the railroads should be paying a greater share, noting the city can’t force the railroads to pay for improvements.

“They could say, ‘We could just not participate. We pay our taxes and we’re not going to do anything (more),’” he said.

U.S. Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), in whose district the plan was unveiled, stressed that the railroads’ support for the plan is critical for capturing federal funding for the bulk of the costs.

“For them to come together on a plan such as this, it’s an incredible achievement,” he said. “The Chicago bottleneck is the No. 1 freight bottleneck in the country.”


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CP cuts 520 more jobs

Canadian Pacific Ry. is cutting 520 more jobs, or 3.3 percent of its work force, and is restructuring its northeastern U.S. network.

A CP press release stated the carrier “is also taking a special charge of about $152 million after taxes in the second quarter of 2003 “to recognize the cost of these initiatives and the write-down to fair value of under-performing assets.”

Ritchie said, “We are not satisfied with the current rate of progress toward our long-term financial objectives. This situation has been exacerbated by the unexpected rise in the value of the Canadian dollar added to sustained high fuel prices. We are accelerating existing plans and taking additional steps to improve productivity and address investments that aren't performing to expectation.”

CP will cut some 820 jobs this year, up from 300 positions announced earlier this year. The railway now plans to eliminate 330 positions in 2004, and 120 positions in 2005. CPR will take an accrual of $71 million after tax related to these job reductions.

The Calgary, Alberta based company intends to restructure its northeastern U.S. network, operated as the Delaware & Hudson Ry., to improve economic performance.

It said it “has begun discussions with a number of interested parties about ways to generate higher traffic volumes and greater earnings.”

The company said it would write down its investment in its Northeastern U.S. operations by $55.5 million after taxes to reflect the operation’s current value and the impact of restructuring.

“We believe our northeastern U.S. network has additional earnings potential and we are prepared to take the measures necessary to make it a success,” Ritchie said.

CP employs 15,800 people on a 14,000-mile network in Canada and the U.S. About three-quarters of the employees work in Canada. Earlier this year, CPR announced 300 job cuts. It plans to cut, 330 jobs in 2004 and 120 in 2005.

Its former parent company had nearly 100,000 employees before it was pared down in the 1990s and split into five separate units in 2001.


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Illinois tops nation in gate failures

A frequently ignored defensive-driving rule at railroad crossings – always expect a train – is getting fresh attention from safety advocates in response to new data showing Illinois leads the nation in failures of warning gates and signals.

Twenty crossing-signal activation failures occurred in the first five months of the year in Illinois, according to FRA records requested by the Chicago Tribune. Texas, which has the most railroad crossings in the country, reported 10 activation failures, which the newspaper reported on June 14.

Illinois also had the worst record in 2002, with 94 activation failures when a train was approaching, followed by Texas, at 37, and California, with 25 incidents.

State rail-safety regulators said the problem, which had gone largely unnoticed because crossing signal-activation malfunctions were not reported until recently, represents a double-edged threat to public safety.

If drivers and pedestrians are not warned of oncoming trains, accidents can result, such as the crash that injured three people in DuPage County in 2001 and a fatal wreck two years earlier in Downstate McLean in which a 79 mph Amtrak train killed two young men.

“Motorists should always go through railroad crossings with caution, even if they aren’t lit,” said John Blair, senior railroad safety specialist at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

“No mechanical device is 100 percent fail-safe. That’s why school bus drivers are required to stop, look and listen for trains before proceeding over the crossing,” Blair said.

There are other dangers. Crossing safety devices that fail consistently can, over time, encourage drivers to weave around lowered crossing gates even when a train might actually be roaring toward a crossing.

The railroads were not required until 1996 to report to the federal government on crossing-signal activation failures, in which the equipment does not deploy when a train is arriving or it deploys late. The statistics weren’t readily available to inspectors or the railroads until 2000, when they were entered into a computerized national database.

In the past, the failure of crossing safety equipment to deploy properly went unnoticed unless a railroad employee, a passing police officer or a motorist reported the problem.

Now almost half of the crossings in Illinois are equipped with devices that monitor whether the warning gates, flashers and bells are working and providing at least the minimum required warning of 20 seconds before a train reaches a crossing.

The remote-monitoring devices, which were first installed in the state in late 2001, send an electronic message to the railroads when they detect activation failures or problems that can lead to such failures.

The 94 activation failures in Illinois last year reflect “critical defects” that had the potential to lead to an accident, officials said. ICC inspectors found 1,014 less serious signal maintenance defects in 2002, the first full year the commission began inspecting railroad crossings statewide; but with only three crossing-signal inspectors and more than 4,600 signal-controlled crossings in the state, it will take the commission years to check every crossing, Blair said.

Commission officials attributed the record number of signal failures in Illinois to several factors, including that much of the warning-signal equipment is old and vulnerable to breakdowns as well as damage from Midwestern weather. Vandalism is another problem in a state with so many crossings, rail inspectors said.

Signals that fail to activate are particularly dangerous, but another hazard is false activation, or when gates and signals deploy even when no trains are coming.

To safeguard against a failure when a train might be approaching, crossing systems are designed to go into “safe mode” when a glitch is detected: gates lowered and warning lights and bells on. Such false activation reinforces the attitude among drivers that crossing devices are unreliable and needn’t be routinely obeyed.

“Gates down with no train coming can make drivers impatient,” said Dennis Mogan, director of safety at Metra, which has 565 crossings in the Chicago area. Mogan urged the public to call Metra’s toll-free number, 877-349-4283, when a problem is spotted.

Despite the peril of false activations, the railroads are not required to report them to the government, which decided that the burden of collecting the data outweighed the safety benefit.

The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe operates more than 800 crossings in Illinois that have active warning devices. Internal records show that false activations at the crossings averaged 140 per month last year, said railroad spokesman Steve Forsberg, adding the rate is less than 0.1 percent.

Activation failures are much less common at BNSF crossings in Illinois, averaging one incident every two months, he said.

Nationwide, more than 400 motorists and pedestrians are killed in grade-crossing accidents each year. Last year in Illinois, there were 155 crossing accidents, the lowest since 1945, according to the ICC. None of the accidents in 2002 was directly blamed on a signal-activation failure.

Still, Blair said the number of activation failures, while relatively few, is “disturbing, and we are finding out about it because of the new reporting requirements.”

The national database tracking began after two young men traveling in a car were killed in September 1999 in a collision with an Amtrak train at a crossing in McLean County. An investigation determined that a signal-maintenance worker for the Union Pacific had disengaged the warning system during repairs. He left the scene without alerting dispatchers, train engineers or motorists that the crossing was unprotected.

The accident in DuPage occurred at Army Trail Road near Bloomingdale in January 2001. A Canadian National’s Illinois Central freight train passed through the crossing even though the warning signals had been disabled for repairs because of chronic malfunctions, according to an investigation. Three members of a Carol Stream family were injured when a train traveling at 50 m.p.h. hit their sport-utility vehicle and caused it to roll over several times.

Investigators said most accidents related to signal-activation failures are caused by human error.

“As much as I would like to say we are perfect, we are not,” said Tim Depaepe, research director for the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the union representing signal workers. Depaepe said mistakes are rare and there is no cause for alarm.

“The FRA has definitely put in a lot of effort to try to correct what they see as a trend of activation failures,” Depaepe said. “But I don’t think there is a major trend.”


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Garbage is odorous nightmare in Buffalo

The garbage train sits in a rail yard in Buffalo. N.Y.’s Clinton-Bailey neighborhood, where residents report swarms of fruit flies and green bottle flies, as well as rats.

Mary Taber and Karen Ball are among the 1,500 neighbors who have been trying for months to get the containers of New York City garbage out of a freight yard.

Buffalo’s garbage train, the 400 oceangoing containers stacked by twos, would stretch down the tracks for more than a mile if it were headed somewhere, but this train has been bound for nowhere since February.

Each car is stuffed with 25 to 50 tons of solid waste and construction debris from New York City, according to a recent report in the Buffalo News.

More than 40 million pounds of garbage – grapefruit rinds, disposable diapers and other aromatic throwaways that homeowners and apartment dwellers couldn’t wait to get rid of – are rotting in SK Yard.

A state environmental inspector could only get within a foot of the reeking cars in April before the overpowering stench drove her away.

It has been warming up since, and a fortnight ago, people who live in the Clinton-Bailey neighborhood reported swarms of fruit flies and green bottle flies had hatched. Neighbors saw the first rats last week.

The garbage is sitting there - in bright blue steel, tarped containers that make perfect composting bins because a New York City waste transporter claims to have run out of money to continue sending them to Modern Landfill in Lewiston, N.Y.

State and city officials, who brought court action last month to get rid of the rail cars and punish those responsible, say the garbage never should have been stored in Buffalo.

“It was a completely lawless operation,” said Judith Enck, an environmental adviser to State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer.

How did those 400 containers - and the several thousand before them that were loaded onto tractor-trailers and sent over Buffalo city streets on their way to Niagara County - end up in a city neighborhood?

In a word, money.

Since New York City closed its massive Fresh Kills landfill two years ago, there are millions of dollars to be made by those willing to haul away the 36,000 tons of waste the city generates and ships out every day.

The city’s Department of Sanitation spends nearly $1 billion a year handling just one-third of that garbage, with private carting companies shipping the rest.

Landfills in Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states get most of the load hauled by a handful of the nation’s largest waste companies, but there are plenty of smaller outfits looking for a profit.

Robert B. Ferro’s Chem-Rail Logistics, the company that shipped the garbage there over the Canadian Pacific Railroad, is a Long Island man He says he no longer has the wherewithal to move the garbage. His plans went awry.

Court documents show he botched other waste operations in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and a civil racketeering lawsuit accused his workers of threatening to kill Philadelphia trucking company executives who complained about not getting paid for new trucks leased to Ferro.


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Delaware bridge sails downstream for repairs

Norfolk Southern’s Shellpot swing bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, Del., will return in about eight weeks – after it is rebuilt by a Maryland company.

The movable section of the 115-year-old span was removed two weeks ago as part of a $13.5 million project to restore the bridge so freight trains can run directly to the Port of Wilmington instead of on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The Wilmington, Del. News Journal reported on June 18 the latest date given for the completion of the bridge rehabilitation is March 31, officials said.

“It’s going along fine and is on schedule,” NS spokesman Rudy Husband said.

Since the bridge was closed, freight traffic has been restricted to sharing Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor during off-peak hours, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Freight trains now travel through Wilmington’s Amtrak station.

“It certainly has not helped the port out by this current configuration,” Husband said.

Delaware DOT spokesman Mike Williams said the 242-foot movable swing span had to be cut in half and hoisted out by crane. Built in 1888, the bridge is 725 feet long over the approaches. The span was closed in 1994 after the deteriorating concrete foundation was deemed unsafe for heavy loads.

The first section of the movable deck was delivered by barge to the Maryland company earlier this month, Williams said, and the second section was hoisted out last week.

The project is a joint effort by Delaware and the NS to strengthen commerce and spur economic growth at the Port of Wilmington.

Officials said the railroad toll bridge is the first in the nation. The state will collect tolls from Norfolk Southern for each freight car that crosses the bridge over 20 years as reimbursement for the public funding. Railroads will pay $35 a car for the first 5,000 cars that use the bridge a year, and $5 a car after 50,000 car crossings.

Husband said each rail car is equipped with an electronic reader device similar to an E-ZPass transponder so the number of cars that use the bridge can be counted.

Part of the construction project includes rejoining tracks from the bridge directly to the Port of Wilmington via a spur line, Husband said. Williams said the tracks extend into the water on both sides and link to the swing bridge.

Workers have removed six sections of pier caps on each side that support the bridge so they can be rebuilt, Williams said.

Pile driving, originally scheduled for September and October, has been moved up. Now, permanent pilings are expected to be installed in July and August, Williams said.

With the project’s completion next year, more cargo could be shipped by rail into and out of Wilmington’s port and the Delmarva Peninsula, Husband said.

“If we can demonstrate that we can offer consistent reliable service at a reasonable price, more opportunities will materialize which will result in an increase in train traffic,” he said. “Obviously, we and Delaware have good reason to believe that is exactly what will happen.”


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Rail traffic continues flat, says AAR

Total freight traffic on the nation’s railroads was flat during the week ended June 14 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday (June 19).

Total volume was estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles for the week, identical with last year. Intermodal volume rose 4.3 percent to 196,384 trailers or containers. But carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, was off 2.2 percent to 334,948 cars. Carload volume was down 1.4 percent in the East and 2.9 percent in the West.

Seven out of nineteen commodities were up from the comparable week last year, with coke rising 41.24 percent and farm products other than grain increasing 5.3 percent. On the down side, loadings of metallic ores were off 23.5 percent and metals and products were down 11.2 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 24 weeks of 2003: 7,721,075 carloads, up 0.4 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 4,437,264 trailers and containers, up 6.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 682.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last year’s first 24 weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Intermodal traffic was up from last year but carload freight was down on Canadian railroad during the week ended June 14. Intermodal traffic totaled 44,021 trailers and containers, up 6.8 percent from last year. Carload volume was 61,387 cars, down 3.4 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 24 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,485,107 carloads, down 1.7 percent from last year, and 983,296 trailers and containers, up 10.0 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 24 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 9,206,182 carloads, virtually the same as last year and 5,420,560 trailers and containers, up 7.3 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended June 14 totaled 8,817 cars, virtually the same as last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,633 originated trailers or containers, up 11.0 percent from the 24th week of 2002. For the first 24 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 204,666 cars, up 1.4 percent from last year, and 85,184 trailers or containers, up 34.4 percent.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)29.07029.270
Canadian National(CNI)49.81051.300
Canadian Pacific(CP)22.84023.630
CSX(CSX)30.33031.730
Florida East Coast(FLA)25.85029.070
Kansas City Southern(KSU)12.31012.270
Norfolk Southern(NSC)20.21021.750
Union Pacific(UNP)58.76060.970


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Brits expect rail fare hikes

The failure of the British government to get to grips with the growing U.K. transport crisis was laid bare June 16 by revelations that rail passengers face inflation-busting fare increases and cuts in mainline services.

London’s The Independent stated one piece of good news for “customers” was not as good as it seemed. Richard Bowker, chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, said the reliability of services was “static.”

Despite a massive increase in investment, train services are still deteriorating, though marginally. Some 19.5 per cent of services did not arrive on time in the first three months of the year, compared with 19.1 per cent in the same period last year. Passengers were unimpressed. Complaints increased over the year by 8 per cent.

A loudly trumpeted 10-year plan for the network, launched by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, in July 2000, has quite simply fallen apart.

His boast that the plan would “get Britain moving again” and lure motorists out of their cars is clearly meaningless. Research published June 16 by the Independent Transport Commission showed that if the government’s present policies were pursued, motorists would face a 25 per cent increase in the volume of traffic over the next seven years. It also said a congestion charge on main roads could solve the problem.

So far, the strategy of the Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, to divert attention from the Government’s failings by keeping his head down, seems to have worked. Under his stewardship, and perhaps partly because of world events, the issue has slipped down the political agenda – but the transport system is probably in a worse state than it was when Prescott outlined his vision three years ago.

Darling added to the gloom by warning that fares would have to rise to pay for higher investment in the privatized industry, while rail chiefs indicated that reducing the number of trains was the only conceivable way of making the services more reliable.

Darling is understood to have approved fares rises of about 4 percent, which he wants to publish within a few weeks, although Downing Street has yet to approve them.

Darling and Bowker admitted that performance was still “disappointing,” after the latest figures showed one in five trains ran late.

Announcing his “capacity utilization policy” on June 16, Bowker said that his strategy was “not about cuts” and that there would be no sweeping changes, but a targeted analysis of parts of the network that were over-stretched. He refused to rule out reducing the timetable in busy areas to enhance reliability, but would not be drawn on how many trains would have to be cut.

Among the routes subject to big cutbacks could be intercity lines, which official figures show have had a 60 percent increase in services but only a 10 per cent increase in passengers since privatization. Main routes in the Southeast could also be the subject of “pruning,” although the increase in passengers in the region has outstripped the rise in capacity, largely because commuters have few alternatives to the train.

All the £33 billion of taxpayers’ money earmarked for rail in the Prescott plan has been allocated, and there are no massive improvements in the system in prospect. Ministers no longer mention Prescott’s hope of attracting £34 billion of private sector money.

Half of the passenger train operating companies are being bailed out by massive and unforeseen handouts from taxpayers, with nearly a quarter of them technically insolvent. Most observers agree that the train network is “privatized” in name only. Network Rail, the not-for-profit organization that took over from the bankrupt Railtrack, has become a financial black hole.

Tom Winsor, the rail regulator, has said that the lack of private shareholders in the company had led to an “explosion” in costs. Network Rail is asking Winsor for £27.8 billion to run the network over the next five years, compared with the £16 billion agreed with Railtrack for the same period. The money will be spent, not on important projects to build high-speed trains similar to the TGV in France, but to stop the existing infrastructure falling apart.

Steve Hounsham, of Transport 2000, said that the government should be given credit for initially placing rail near the top of its agenda, but he criticized it for failing to put in place efficient systems for spending the extra investment. “The whole system has run into the buffers,” he said.


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OFF THE MAINLINE...  Off the main line...

B&O museum plans to open next year

It will take more than $20 million and at least six years before the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum fully recovers from February’s roundhouse roof collapse, but the museum still expects to reopen - minus a few exhibits - sometime next year.

“We have made all the decisions on how to bring the building back,” Francis X. Smyth, chief executive of Century Engineering and a B&O board member, said June 13. “So we know how it is going to look when you walk through the doors, just not when yet.”

The West Baltimore museum has also decided to build a new restoration shop and use its staff to fix damaged railcars and locomotives, according to the Baltimore Sun. The shop will double as an unusual exhibit for the museum, one where visitors will get a rare look at rail vehicles being taken apart and restored.

The rebuilt roundhouse, the museum’s centerpiece attraction, will look nearly identical to the original 1884 version, with only a few variations to meet modern specifications and codes. The biggest difference will be welded steel trusses instead of riveted wrought iron.

To maintain the building’s original look, fake plates and rivets will be used to simulate the former trusses. The painted walls and floor will be the same color, and the damaged wooden turntable, powered by an antiquated 19th-century motor to move the railcars inside the museum, will be restored.

“Some people might say, ‘Why would you spend the money for fake plates and rivets,?’” said B&O executive director Courtney B. Wilson. “This building is a national landmark, so it was important to bring it back to its original state.”

Officials considered making some significant changes to the building, such as adding air conditioning and insulating the roof, but worried that those items might compromise the integrity of the museum.

Wilson said the roof collapse on February 17 might have been the worst incident to ever befall a historical museum in the U.S. Restoring the 119-year-old roundhouse is both structurally and financially challenging.

Museum officials have found only two suppliers – one in West Virginia and the other in Canada – that can handle a slate order to cover 30,000 square feet of roof, and only a handful of companies are capable of replicating trusses as intricately detailed as the B&O wants.


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LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

I know there are fellow railroaders that check this board so this important safety news is directed at you. However, our rail enthusiast friends may find this interesting as well.

I am the locomotive shop safety co-chairman at the CSX Atlanta Locomotive Shop. My boss sometimes forwards safety related e-mail to me to pass along to other rail industry and railfan friends.

Recently there have been several incidents of someone taping razor blades to bleed rods, cut levers and angle cocks on freight cars. If you have already heard about this, good... If not, read on.

Narrative: (Houston/Strang yard area)

“5/24/03-0045 hrs, switchman pulled on the air release rod of a hopper car that arrived on an inbound cut of cars. Switchman felt something scrape his glove, upon examination of the item the switchman found a razor blade had been taped to the rod. The switchman’s glove was cut, however the blade did not penetrate the glove to his fingers or hand.

“The inbound railroad was immediately notified. After a check of their local yard, a number of railcars were found to have razor blades taped to the angle cocks and bleed rods.

“Railroad police are currently investigating. Please be advised and inform all employees to be alert and attentive, and conduct a visual inspection of all railcars prior to grabbing with hand, getting on or off equipment and prior to working on any railcars.”

This is a safety concern that I felt I would pass on to my fellow rails, especially you carmen and train service guys. Whoever did this is obviously a sick individual. This may be a localized thing but it is certainly worth a good look. Please be careful!

Kevin Wood
CSX Atlanta Locomotive Shop


Dear Editor:

In “The Way We Were” of June 16, you show a picture of a rail station and provide a narrative of a trip to “Peterborough,” leaving the reader with the impression that the photos are of Peterborough, N.H. Actually, those photos are of White River Junction, Vt. The cupola and train weathervane were still there in the late 1970s, the last time I made a trip up that way. I have a photo I took of the weathervane from the platform.

Randolph Resor
Merchantville, NJ


Dear Editor:

“The Way We Were” in the June 16 D:F incorrectly identifies the photo location as Peterborough, NH. It appears to be White River Junction, Vt. There are too many tracks and possible destinations to be Peterborough.

Andrew Koniers
Jenkintown, Penna.


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

Coal

NCI: Leo King

When D:F’s editor was a cub reporter at the Newport News Daily Press in Virginia, he learned that the ships carrying coal to far off ports – perhaps to Bremerhaven, perhaps to Tokyo – were called “colliers.” That term does not exist in my American Heritage Dictionary. I had to go back to my elderly Oxford English Dictionary to learn the term does exist, and specifically means one who deals in coal trade. Question: Does CSX still operate these coal unloading docks in Newport News? Back in 1969, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway dumped coal into the awaiting ships. There is a hopper car being unloaded at the bottom of the “A” frame.

End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.


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